Consultation for sea planning framework launched

The Government has opened a consultation on a new, integrated marine planning framework, aimed at managing the activities and developments in UK seas while safeguarding the marine environment.

The consultation for the new Marine Bill, launched Wednesday, will explore ways to marry the sometimes conflicting interests of industries using the sea’s resources for energy, food, transport and leisure with marine conservation and water quality concerns.

Proposals include a marine spatial planning system, streamlined marine development permission mechanisms, means of managing coasts, estuaries and fisheries, and the establishment of a new Marine Management Organisation.

Launching the consultation, Ben Bradshaw, Defra’s Marine Minister, emphasised the importance of Britain’s seas for industry and the general public alike. The UK coast houses 40 percent of the manufacturing industry, while 17m people live within 10km of it, he pointed out.

“The bulk of our foreign trade passes through our sea ports, and the sea provides resources as diverse as fish, oil and gas, renewable energy, and sand and gravel,” Ben Bradshaw said.

“All this happens in an important and vulnerable marine ecosystem. That’s why we need a comprehensive, integrated system that takes account of the needs of all these interests, and we want to hear from those who represent them,” he said.

The Marine Conservation Society welcomed the proposals. MCS senior policy officer Melissa Moore said: “MCS is pleased that the UK plans to lead the way as the first country in Europe to introduce comprehensive Marine Spatial Planning.

“This is the best tool to deliver the ecosystem approach and implement sustainable use of our seas. It will also deliver a streamlined, forward looking and joined up planning and consents regime for industry, thus supporting the sustainable development of new industries such as marine renewables.”

The Marine Bill consultation was given a more cautious welcome by the British Wind Energy Association. The renewable industries body expressed concerns over new bureaucratic hurdles the Bill could introduce for offshore wind development.

Michael Hay, Marine Renewables Development Manager at BWEA, said:

“BWEA welcomes the thrust of this consultation, however we believe that the key strategic importance of our vast offshore renewable energy resources must be fully recognised in the formulation of any new Bill and in increased Government support for their development.

“Given our present position as market leader, particularly in wave and tidal energy, it is vital that projects are able to enter the water as efficiently as possible in areas that provide excellent potential for power production.”

More information on the Marine Bill can be accessed on the DEFRA website

By Goska Romanowicz

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